A Triangle AMA panel covered trends and best practices in email marketing. Many of the trends still apply—here’s my recap of the lunch-and-learn session in April 2010.
Top 5 Lessons
- Ask customers what they’re interested in…or observe their actions. If someone is always clicking for info on size 10 mens’ shoes, you can probably assume that’s their size. (Kelly Lorenz)
- First thing in the morning, everyone checks their email. The Facebook feed or Twitter stream can pass by unread, but we’ve been conditioned to deal with our inbox. (Jeffrey Rohrs)
- Emails need to be more digestible, “chunkier.” And 30% of your email, max, should be promotional. The rest should be informational or relational. Don’t focus on yourself. (Anissa Freeman Starnes)
- Email is your home base on social media. You get private messages via email, instead of logging into 20 different websites to check your updates. (James Wong)
- You don’t have to start by doing it all. Much of what the panelists mentioned is quite sophisticated, but you can start with a simple trigger e-mail, for instance. (Gregory Ng)
Extended Comments from the ESP Panelists
- Kelly Lorenz from Bronto in Durham, NC
- Ask customers what they’re interested in…or observe their actions. If someone is always clicking for info on size 10 mens’ shoes, you can probably assume that’s their size. And if they always open your message on Tuesday at 10AM, then send them their messages on Tuesday at 10AM.
- Especially among 24-34 year olds, companies need to talk withcustomers and contacts, not talk at them.
- Email isn’t fading away any time soon. Bronto client example: a homegoods etailer gets $3 back from every $1 it spends on email marketing. They’ve done this by implementing an RFM model, instead of just the traditional in/out sales funnel.
- 4-10% of B2C email “opens” today are on a mobile device.
- Bronto has an A/B split test feature built into the application interface, with real-time results.
- You can start by fine-tuning your “Welcome” message.
- Worst mistake: buying an email list. She’s seen a 100% failure rate. Short-term bump in sales, and long-term damage to brand equity. Growing organically is hard, but it’s better in the end.
- Jeffrey Rohrs from ExactTarget
- Email is becoming a career option, rather than a training ground for other marketing jobs, but we need to professionalize email. It’s not for entry-level hires or the old “let’s build a newsletter” mindset.
- Email marketers must interface with other departments. Data complexity will still require working with I.T.
- We’re trending back to less formal tones, especially as social media gets involved. Example: Groupon‘s irreverent unsubscribe message.
- There are no universal design rules. You have to test.
- Client example: Mpls.St.Paul magazine sent long emails–when printed out, it was literally 6′ long. They split-tested three options: the 6′ email, a 3′ version, and a one-pager. The 3′ middle ground won. You never know ’til you test.
- Be sure to optimize your pre-header, to capture people who’d rather read the email as a web page.
- If you have a corporate-dealer or franchisor-franchisee organization, the head office should contractually control how the sub-entities interact with customers via email, because a mis-step by a dealer or franchisee can hurt the brand.
- Email isn’t sexy. It’s tried and true, the oldest piece in our interactive marketing toolbox. Journalists seeking the next Google and young marketers chasing the latest trend may give less attention to email, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
- Email isn’t going anywhere. Consider with social media: every network requires an e-mail address to join. Email is the “lifeblood” and “connective tissue” of social media.
- We’ve been conditioned to deal with our inbox. First thing in the morning, everyone checks their email. The Facebook feed or Twitter stream can pass by unread, but we’ve been conditioned to deal with our inbox.
- If you started in marketing before 1990, there were just six channels: TV, radio, outdoor, print, direct mail, and phone. Today, there are 40 different marketing channels.
- If you have a B2B salesforce, leverage that. Put a headshot and the salesperson’s name in the outgoing email, so the customer can see the real, live person who’s there to take care of their account.And besides, sales people love seeing themselves in emails.
- Worst mistake? Making emails about the company, not the subscriber.
- Anissa Freeman Starnes from Constant Contact
- Emails need to be more digestible, “chunkier.” And 30% of your email, max, should be promotional. The rest should be informational or relational. Don’t focus on yourself.
- Opportunity for marketers: interaction and building relationships, especially for small businesses
- Worst mistakes she’s seen? Not getting feedback on your newsletter design. And don’t be like the national retailer in Charlotte that was sending her a sales email with 50-100 images every day.
- James Wong from iContact in Durham, NC
- Client in the wine industry sends trigger promo emails that update the sale as the campaign unfolds. The etailer’s entire business depends on email marketing.
- People always ask, “How do I build my list?” Start by putting a signup form on every online property you have.
- Email design will become simpler. And format standardization will help–there are currently six different versions of HTML standards among different email clients.
- Be sure to install Google Analytics or similar tracking software, to see how much traffic comes from email campaigns.
- Problem with a brand? In the past, you’d complain to 10 friends. Now, you’ll tell everyone via social media
- Worried about brand risks from franchisees or other sub-businesses? Consider an enterprise agency model, where each account has different levels of access and freedom, and there’s a master opt-out list.
- Email is your home base on social media. You get private messages via email, instead of logging into 20 different websites to check your updates.
- It’s really all about value. Segment your lists out (for instance, by time zone, especially with any international subscribers).
- Crowdsource your brand evangelists. See who loves you online, and invite them to give A/B and user interface feedback. At the least, survey your subscribers.
- Gregory Ng from Brooks Bell Interactive in Raleigh, NC
- Question for the panel: Less than 60% of the population reads email only on a traditional computer. How will this shift to mobile and in-between devices affect email?
- You don’t have to start by doing it all. Much of what the panelists mentioned is quite sophisticated, but you can start with a simple trigger e-mail, for instance.
Don’t waste time and money by sending a great email campaign that directs people to a website that can’t convert or that doesn’t match what your sales team is saying. Marketer and cartoonist Sean D’Souza has a great cartoon about this: “Bad Landing Pages.”
I’d like to have heard more about how companies can actually implement the customer interactivity, since handling two-way communication eventually requires hiring more employees (or contractors) without an immediate ROI. In email, at least, I find most customers typically don’t click “reply” to my clients’ emails (but the ones who do reply are pretty engaged).
As a long-time Constant Contact user on behalf of my clients, I’m still waiting for A/B testing from CC. They’ve been promising it as “coming soon” for a couple years. James from iContact said they just released their A/B tool, and Bronto and ExactTarget already have the testing feature. To paraphrase the NSFW Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always be testing.”
Congrats to Triangle AMA programming head Ted Seward for recruiting speakers from the major email service providers (ESP’s). I’d like to have heard from MailChimp (a small-biz ESP that’s had built-in A/B split testing for a while) and AWeber (an ESP with extensive autoresponders)…but six panelists would be unwieldy. As it was, we had audience questions the entire time.
Marketing agency and event sponsor Capstrat had a clever promotional product for every attendee–a mangled cookie cutter for each attendee, with a tag saying “Die, Cookie Cutter. Die. Die.” and code on the back to find out “how your cookie cutter died” at www.capstrat.com. (Mine “knew too much about the Muffin Man.”) The promo’s going into my swipe file.
What were your biggest lessons-learned from the AMA email panel?